The 2022 Miles Franklin longlist

24 May 2022

The 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award longlist was announced this morning. An annual award, the Miles Franklin recognises outstanding works of Australian fiction.

Some familiar titles there, some new ones, either way time to update those to-be-read lists. The shortlist will be announced on Thursday 23 June 2022.

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2022 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) shortlist

23 May 2022

The 2022 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) shortlist has been announced. Sixty-five titles are vying for recognition in thirteen award categories, including audiobook, biography, fiction, non-fiction, children, and literary fiction.

Across these categories, together with The Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, shortlisted titles — in no particular order — include:

The winners will be named at a ceremony on the evening of Thursday 9 June 2022, at the ICC Sydney.

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Red, a novel by Felicity McLean, the Ned Kelly story retold

23 May 2022
Red, by Felicity McLean, bookcover

A novel that is a contemporary re-telling of the story of nineteenth century Australian bushranger and outlaw Ned Kelly? Ok, you have my attention. Such is the premise of Red (published by HarperCollins, 18 May 2022), the second novel by Sydney based Australian writer and journalist, Felicity McLean.

But McLean isn’t flippantly bandying about references to Ned Kelly merely to, you know, attract attention, she has partly based her protagonist Ruby “Red” McCoy, on the contents of Kelly’s 1879 Jerilderie letter.

It’s the early 1990s and Ruby ‘Red’ McCoy dreams about one day leaving her weatherboard house on the Central Coast of New South Wales, where her best friend, Stevie, is loose with the truth, and her dad, Sid, is always on the wrong side of the law. But wild, whip-smart Red can’t stay out of trouble to save her life, and Sid’s latest hustle is more harebrained than usual. Meanwhile, Sergeant Trevor Healy seems to have a vendetta against every generation of the McCoys.

So far only a few reviews of Red have been published, but Australian author John Purcell holds McLean’s writing in high regard:

But the novel’s greatest strength is the voice of narrator Red. I know it is loosely based on Ned Kelly’s voice from the famous [Jerilderie] letter, but it goes well beyond that. Red speaks to us as a fully formed living entity with her own ticks and wisdom. So much so that I started to believe McLean must have suffered from some kind of unholy possession throughout the writing of the book. Red’s narration overflows with colourful anecdotes, cheek and bravado. McLean’s use of language is ceaselessly inventive, coming up with the goods time and time again.

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Photos from inside the besieged Mariupol steel plant

23 May 2022

The photos were taken by Dmytro Kozatsky, one of several thousand Ukrainian soldiers who managed to defend the Azovstal steel plant for almost three months, from Russian invaders. Kozatsky is now being held by the Russians as a prisoner of war.

Here’s hoping he wins an award for these images.

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Whina, a film by James Napier Robertson and Paula Whetu Jones

23 May 2022

Whina, trailer, directed by James Napier Robertson, and Paula Whetu Jones, is the story of Dame Whina Cooper, a twentieth century Māori activist and leader, who fought for Māori rights in New Zealand. Whina will screen at the 2022 Sydney Film Festival.

The daughter of a Māori chief, Josephine (‘Whina’ for short), was born in Hokianga in 1895. For nearly a century, Whina (Miriama McDowell, as younger Whina, and Rena Owen, Once Were Warriors) never stopped asserting the rights of her people and striving for unity between Māori and Pākehā. In 1975, Whina, frail but still determined, led a sacred hīkoi over 600kms, from the top of New Zealand to Parliament House in Wellington.

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A critique of Trent Dalton’s novels by Catriona Menzies-Pike

23 May 2022

An in-depth look at the writing of Brisbane based Australian author Trent Dalton, in particular his two bestsellers Boy Swallows Universe, and All Our Shimmering Skies, by Catriona Menzies-Pike, editor of the Sydney Review of Books.

If Dalton’s prose style skims the surfaces of his characters’ lives, so does his thinking about the moral and political world. Dalton infantilises his audience by feeding them palatable maxims about history, society and human flourishing. The themes are repeated again and again in case the rowdy kids up the back aren’t paying attention.

It’s a longer read, but well worth the time. It seems to me effectively critiquing a work of fiction — as is writing a good novel in the first place — is an art form in itself. Many of the book reviews I read — and, doubtless — write myself, essentially summarise the plot and include a few words as to the merit or otherwise of the title. There’s nothing wrong with that, when choosing what to read next I often quickly look for a consensus, before deciding what to do.

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Radiohead’s Ok Computer album turns twenty five

23 May 2022

Last Saturday, 21 May 2022, marked twenty five years since British band Radiohead released their third studio album Ok Computer, in 1997. To mark the occasion Ed O’Brien, the group’s guitarist, took to Instagram to share insights into the way the band thought and worked.

Wow… feels like an age away.. 1997 belonged to a different era .. we were just kids.. with unswerving focus and drive .. no partying just the desire to make better and better work.. it was fucking exciting .. people seemed to get what we were doing and the gigs were getting more powerful.

“1997 belonged to a different era”… I copy that.

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Brazen Comics Festival Sydney 2022

21 May 2022

Some late news to hand for anyone with an interest in graphic novels, and comics, who’s in Sydney tomorrow: the Brazen Comics Festival is on at the East Sydney Community and Arts Centre, in Darlinghurst, Sunday 22 May 2022, from 10AM until 4PM.

Brazen Comics Festival is a one day comics festival. The festival will amplify, highlight, and celebrate the voices of women, non-binary, and gender diverse people in comics, and foster a connected, welcoming, and supportive community of comic fans and creators in Australia. Brazen Comics Festival is accessible and welcoming to all.

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The Impact, a film by 50 directors and 50 writers

21 May 2022

Made up of thirty-seven short films, The Impact, trailer, counts down the final two hours on Earth before a catastrophic meteor strike. Grim storyline aside, The Impact is a feat of filmmaking, with fifty directors and fifty writers collaborating to produce the feature. I’m not sure if we’ll see it on Australian film screens, but The Impact premieres in London on Tuesday 31 May 2022.

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Sally Rooney’s books are better than their film adaptations

21 May 2022

That appears to be the case for the Irish author’s 2018 book Conversations with Friends, writes Robert Moran for Stuff:

All the forensic psychological nuance that Rooney feeds us through Frances – her neurotic overthinking, her spiky self-loathing, her overworked efforts to affect nonchalant charm – those chaotic moments that lend Frances her skewed humanity, are dulled, if not lost, on screen. What you’re left with is lingering shots of Frances staring out a rain-streaked window, presumably deep in existential thought, but who knows?

Disappointing. I know I just about always look forward the screen adaptation of the novels I like, despite an innate weariness to the book to film thing…

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Struggling Australians turn to crowd funding to pay the rent

20 May 2022

Melbourne based journalist Stephanie Convery, writing for The Guardian:

The unbearable costs and instability of the rental crisis are pushing more people towards crowdfunding for accommodation, with housing-related appeals on one of Australia’s biggest fundraising platforms more than quadrupling over the past year. The campaigns range from requests for assistance with rental arrears and covering the costs of temporary accommodation, to appeals for help to buy caravans or other forms of mobile accommodation in the face of homelessness.

We are frequently told Australia is a rich — or at least well off — country, making situations like these unfathomable. There may be inequality, often the result of a lack of momentum, but how something basic like reasonably priced rental housing remains a problem beggars belief. I fear whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s federal election, there will be little change to the status quo. Because, you know, this a state issue, not a federal one.

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Arts and culture polices in the 2022 Australian election

20 May 2022

Australians go to the polls tomorrow, Saturday 21 May 2022, to choose who will govern the country for the next three years. While issues such as climate change, the pandemic, and regional security have dominated the election campaign, matters arts and culture have been largely absent from the spot light.

In terms of policy in this area, the incumbent Liberal National Coalition government appears to offer little, while the present opposition party, Labor, has policy that Ben Eltham, a lecturer at the School of Media, Film, and Journalism at Monash University, describes as “surprisingly modest.” Eltham, together with four other policy experts, have compared the proposals of both major political parties, and graded each of them.

Meanwhile, Ben Francis has set out the difference between the Greens, Labor, and the Liberal National Coalition, arts and culture policies in slide format.

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Adèle Haenel exits reactionary racist patriarchal film industry

19 May 2022

French actor Adèle Haenel, who won best actress prizes in the César Awards and the European Film Awards, for her role as Héloïse, in Céline Sciamma’s 2019 film Portrait of a Lady on Fire, has walked away from film making, she said in a recent interview:

“I don’t make films anymore,” Haenel said. “Because of political reasons. Because the film industry is absolutely reactionary, racist, and patriarchal.”

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The 2022 National Indigenous Music Awards

19 May 2022

Like many festival and award ceremonies, the National Indigenous Music Awards (NIMAs) have been forced to proceed with virtual/online events in the last couple of years. In 2022 however the NIMAs return in an in-person format, and will be held in Darwin on Saturday 6 August 2022.

The National Indigenous Music Awards (NIMAs) are recognised as one of Australia’s most prominent Indigenous music awards and have been celebrating Australian music for 16 years. The NIMAs showcase the rich musical landscape of Australia and highlight the music coming from all corners of the country. The Awards bring together acts who are yet to make their mark on the world alongside those who have achieved international acclaim, such as Gurrumul & Jessica Mauboy.

Nominations for the awards are currently open.

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Before, Now & Then, by Kamila Andini, Sydney Film Prize contender

18 May 2022

Before, Now & Then, trailer, by Indonesian filmmaker Kamila Andini, is one of twelve films in competition for the Sydney Film Prize, at the 2022 Sydney Film Festival:

Kamila Andini tells a very personal story set against the backdrop of tumultuous political times in Indonesia in this beguiling period drama. Nana (a luminous Happy Salma) loses her family, including her husband, in the war in West Java. Years later, now in the 1960s, we meet her again. Her poverty now a thing of the past, she has remarried a significantly older man, Mr Darga, who is wealthy and a philanderer. Though her life is comfortable, Nana’s dreams are still occupied by the past.

A chance discovery of a carelessly forgotten item of clothing leads Nana to discover that Darga is having an affair with an even younger local woman, Ino. What follows is unexpected. Rather than a confrontation, Nana and Ino become friends, and take comfort in each other, jointly imagining a path to freedom. Meanwhile, through talk in the town of secret communists, and on radio broadcasts, the political tensions that will alter the future of Indonesia are made clear.

Before, Now & Then, also known as Nana, is competing against eleven other films for the Sydney Film Prize, the winner of which will be announced on Sunday 19 June 2022.

It looks like a tight contest to me.

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Poor financial incentives deter emerging Australian writers

18 May 2022

“Artists in this country are used to living one paycheque away from poverty.” With those words, Evelyn Araluen, winner of this year’s Stella Prize, had everyone’s attention. The proceeds from the literary prize mean Araluen will be able to pay down some debt, and work two jobs instead of three.

But that’s not the reality for many other writers — even those who are published — in Australia, if working two jobs, while still focussing on their art, is meant to constitute reality.

Most writers are forced to take other work, because the rewards for writing all those books we like to read are virtually non-existent. It’s a state of affairs, warns Melbourne based literary agent and author Danielle Binks, that will force young and emerging authors to consider other lines of work all together:

“Kids are already hung up on how much money you can make and whether you can do this for a living … I tell them the reason I write – the reason we all engage in books, art, theatre, anything – is that art changes people and people change the world. But I’m convinced there’s a whole generation of artists, and writers in particular, who will not choose this path.”

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SparkToro: almost 20% of active Twitter accounts are fake or spam

18 May 2022

No wonder Elon Musk, who has made an offer to buy Twitter, is questioning the number of fake and spam accounts on the platform. The social networking service had put the figure at five percent, but American software company SparkToro believes the number may be more like twenty percent:

SparkToro and Followerwonk conducted a rigorous, joint analysis of 44,058 public Twitter accounts active in the last 90 days. These accounts were randomly selected, by machine, from a set of 130+ million public, active profiles. Our analysis found that 19.42%, nearly four times Twitter’s Q4 2021 estimate, fit a conservative definition of fake or spam accounts (i.e. our analysis likely undercounts).

That equates to one in five in accounts which seems staggeringly high, but then again, unfortunately, no, maybe not. Musk may rightly be concerned about the actual levels of fake and spam accounts on Twitter, but as a seasoned and reasonably prolific user it seems odd someone so keenly interested in the platform would be unaware of the extent of the problem.

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Time is a Mother, By Ocean Vuong

17 May 2022
Time is a Mother, By Ocean Vuong bookcover

Time is a Mother (published by Penguin Random House, 5 April 2022), is a collection of poetry written by Northampton, Massachusetts based Vietnamese writer Ocean Vuong, following the death of his mother in 2019.

In this deeply intimate second poetry collection, Ocean Vuong searches for life among the aftershocks of his mother’s death, embodying the paradox of sitting within grief while being determined to survive beyond it. Shifting through memory, and in concert with the themes of his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong contends with personal loss, the meaning of family, and the cost of being the product of an American war in America. At once vivid, brave, and propulsive, Vuong’s poems circle fragmented lives to find both restoration as well as the epicenter of the break.

Isabella Cho writing for The Harvard Crimson, says Vuong channels fear to bring forth this bold new collection of work:

The finale of Vuong’s sprawling poetic vision is at once dangerous and peaceful, elegiac and triumphant. Vuong’s text pulses with an attentiveness to fear. It is through this emotion that he renders such luminous meditations on his life, and of the people who have come to change it. Vuong fears, which is to say, he refuses to not love.

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2022 Emerging Writers’ Festival

17 May 2022

The 2022 Emerging Writers’ Festival takes place in Melbourne from Wednesday 15 June through to Saturday 25 June 2022. The full program for the festival can be seen here. The festival also hosts the National Writers’ Conference, a one day event being held online on Saturday 18 June 2022:

As the centrepiece event of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, the National Writers’ Conference is all about informing and inspiring writers of all genres and styles. Hear the best industry advice from our distinguished Ambassadors and dive into conversations about how to start a publication, the role of literary criticism, the art of the interview and more.

It’s not all about listening to others though, aspiring writers will also have the opportunity to spruik their work during the conference:

Plus, book a Pitch It! Session for a unique opportunity to pitch your manuscript to a publisher or editor. You have just 5 minutes so keep it brief and don’t forget to leave room for questions! These publishers, editors and literary agents are here to support emerging writers, so give it a go.

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Bono and Edge of U2 perform in Kyiv Ukraine

17 May 2022

Excerpts of a surprise performance given by Bono and Edge of Irish rock band U2, accompanied by Ukrainian band Antytila, whose members are also assisting in defending their country from the Russian invasion. Bono told those gathered in the Kyiv metro station that is doubling as a bomb shelter, their people fight not just for their freedom, but for all who cherish liberty:

Your presence leads the world in the cause of freedom right now. The people of Ukraine are not just fighting for your own freedom, you are fighting for all of us who love freedom.

Bono’s on point as per usual.

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